Why walking along the beach in California is perfectly legal
If you've ever thought that it would be nice to take a stroll on the beach and walk all of the way from San Diego to Santa Barbara, and were wondering if it was legal, don't worry, it's fine, and perfectly legal. Well, most of the way. You can walk in front of the most expensive beach houses in Malibu and you aren't trespassing. That's because private property lines only extend to the tide line. Yeah, that's pretty vague, but a private property owner, no matter how rich, can't own the Pacific Ocean.
A lot of people walk along the beaches of California. These people are correctly called "transients", which just means that they keep moving along. Yes, they can be homeless people, or hobos, or whatever you want to call them. If you've lived in beach towns, like Santa Barbara, you've seen a lot of them, especially if you're like me and like to go to the beach early in the morning.
If you're going to walk the beaches of California, you have to know where it's legal to walk inland. There are stretches of beach that go for miles with no legal ingress inland, so it's best to be tough. Something I could never do!
Luckily, there are a lot of public beaches in California. And those are the places where transient people enter. And, no, they aren't breaking any laws by walking along the beach and then going into the town. They may look very rough and dirty (wouldn't you?) but there's no law against looking rough and dirty. It's only if they start doing illegal stuff, like stealing or begging (called panhandling in Santa Barbara) that they will attract the attention of the local police. Otherwise, they are free to do what they please. America is a free country, and as long as they exit and enter on public beaches, and walk right along the edge of the ocean, they're doing nothing wrong. Of course, a lot of people don't know this, so there's always the risk of being shot at, or a dog being sic'ed on you.
I've seen transient people of all ages. Young people carrying backpacks, old people carrying what they could. For me, it's hard to imagine putting up with that much discomfort, but I've always been pretty soft. I have a lot of respect for people who can do this, but I really can't recommend it.
By the way, a pretty important exception to this is Port Hueneme, which is a Naval Base near Oxnard. You wanna stay away from there - aside from everything else, they shoot live shells into the ocean there!
Image above: Hendry's Beach, Santa Barbara.
Posted by Brad Hall